CityNews – Looking to convert a crisis into an opportunity, Thailand is urging travel trade buyers and guests to take their business to the provincial destinations, where the situation is perfectly normal.
Addressing a packed media conference at the ASEAN Tourism Forum here on 22 January, 2014, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik said that while it cannot be denied that some major parts of Bangkok are facing transport and traffic disruptions due to the ongoing political protests, visitors can still have a perfectly good time in the provinces.
This includes the key tourism cities of Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, Hat Yai, Hua Hin/Cha-am and Pattaya as well as secondary cities; such as, Kanchanaburi, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nong Khai, Rayong and many more.
“This is a good time for buyers to discover new destinations, especially those in the provinces bordering the Greater Mekong Subregion countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR. and Myanmar,” Mr. Thawatchai said.
“This is the best time to discover the wonderful new destinations that will emerge in the future thanks to the Asian Highway,” he said. “Not many people know that there are four bridges connecting Thailand to Lao PDR. over the Mekong River and that it is now possible to drive from the eastern Thai border town of Aranyaprathet to Siem Reap, gateway to the famous temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.”
Mr. Thawatchai added, “Those tour operators and travel trade buyers who take advantage of the opportunity to explore the emerging destinations will be able to reap the competitive advantage very soon.”
He noted that promoting provincial travel is in line with the policy of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Thailand’s main planning agency, to distribute income and jobs in the rural areas.
“It is also in line with the region-wide desire to promote ASEAN integration and connectivity. The theme of the ASEAN Tourism Forum was ‘Advancing Tourism Together,’ and that is exactly what we can do now.”
The Governor said that a new way of planning might now be necessary to create separate identities for the four geographical regions of Thailand, and market them individually.
On the trade show floor, most of the roughly 80 exhibitors from Thailand were also from provincial destinations. By and large, they reported that their appointments were met, and that buyers were interested in continuing to do business after getting a better understanding of the situation.
“The feedback we received indicated that if the price was right, the buyers are willing to find ways of packaging the Thai products, as long as they could be assured of their clients’ safety and security, and normalcy of travel arrangements,” Mr. Thawatchai said.
None of the Thai events at the ATF were cancelled, including a Pattaya late-night event, which was very well attended. The Governor said that it was important to proceed with everything as usual.
He said the ATF was important for Thailand as it was the first international travel trade event of 2014. It was also important for him personally, as the first international show that he attended since assuming the governorship in late December 2013.
Mr. Thawatchai said the primary problem are the travel advisories and the impact it is having on insurance coverage for travellers.
“The most important thing for us is that the goodwill towards Thailand remains unaffected,”
Mr. Thawatchai said. “Travel trade buyers see the evolving political situation as a temporary phenomena. There is tremendous sympathy and support for the ordinary Thai people, especially the many rank-and-file people who work in it.
“I was very encouraged by the feedback from everyone that once everything returns to normal, Thailand will back in full strength.”